Full Report of the Short-term Mission to Honduras (pdf 0.9 MB)

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Full Report of the Short-term Mission to Honduras (pdf 0.9 MB)
Report of the Short-term Mission to Honduras
The situation of human rights defenders
Contents
Executive summary. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page. 4
Recommendations. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page. 5
1. IMPUNITY IN CASES OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page. 9 COMMITTED BY STATE AND NON-STATE ACTORS
1.1
THE DANGEROUS CYCLE OF IMPUNITY. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page. 9
1.2
ACTIONS AND OMISSION BY THE STATE. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page. 11
1.2.1 ACTION: THE AMNESTY LAW. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page. 11
1.2.2 OMISSION: LACK OF GOVERNMENT PURGING. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page. 11
1.2.3 WEAKNESSES IN THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page. 12
2. THE CRIMINALISATION AND STIGMATISATION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page. 14
OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS
2.1
PATTERNS AND LEGAL INSTRUMENTS USED TO CRIMINALISE. . . . . . . Page. 14
AND STIGMATISE HRDS IN HONDURAS
2.1.1 CRIMINALISATION OF SOCIAL PROTEST AND . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page. 14
THE DISPROPORTIONAL USE OF VIOLENCE
2.1.2 CRIMINAL ACCUSATIONS OF SEDITION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page. 15
2.1.3 NEW LEGAL INSTRUMENTS TO CRIMINALISE AND STIGMATISE . . . . . . Page. 17
2.1.4 PUBLIC STATEMENTS AGAINST HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS . . . . . . . Page. 18
3. LACK OF IMPLEMENTATION OF PROTECTION MECHANISMS . . . . . . . . . Page. 20
FOR HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS
3.1
THE PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page. 20
3.2
INTERNATIONAL PROTECTION MECHANISMS. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page. 20
FOR HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS
3.2.1 APPLYING AND IMPLEMENTING PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES . . . . . . . Page. 21
OF THE IACHR
3.2.2 THE EUROPEAN UNION GUIDELINES ON. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS
Page. 23
Report of Short-term Mission to Honduras:
The situation of Human Rights Defenders
Executive summary
Since the coup d’état in Honduras on June 28, 2009, Peace Brigades International (PBI) has followed the deteriorating security
situation for human rights defenders (hereinafter HRDs) in that country with increasing concern. In July of 2010, PBI received
a formal petition from the National Human Rights Platform of Honduras, requesting that the organisation establish an international accompaniment and observation project in the country as a result of the lack of guarantees of protection for those persons
working to defend human rights. PBI decided to form a group of international observers who would carry out a short-term mission to Honduras. The mission lasted three weeks and took place during May 2011.
PBI MISSION OBJECTIVES IN HONDURAS
1) meet and become familiar with human rights organisations;
2) provide moral support to human rights defenders;
3) meet with the international community, international aid agencies, and the diplomatic corps;
4) publish a report highlighting the organisation’s concerns and the needs in terms of protection and
international accompaniment.
The group of observers sent by PBI met with a diverse group of social organisations, campesino movements, trade unionists,
and communications activists in Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, the Bajo Aguan region, the Atlantic Coast, Siria Valley, Zacate
Grande, La Esperanza and Siguatepeque. Additionally, the mission met with the diplomatic community in Tegucigalpa, the European Union Delegation, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the G-16 1, international aid
organisations and the Special Prosecutor for Human Rights. PBI would like to express its deep concern for the systematic violation of human rights (civil and political, as well as economic, social, cultural, and the collective rights of indigenous and garifuna
peoples) that the mission observed during its time in the country. In the relatively short duration of our visit, at least five human
rights defenders were assassinated (a journalist 2, a campesino 3 leader 4, and three members of campesino movements 5,6, ), there
was an attempted raid on the regional office of a national women’s organisation 7, five indigenous youths were assaulted during a
community event 8, and peaceful demonstrations against the event Honduras Open for Business were violently repressed 9 . Since
the mission’s visit ended, the violence and persecution against human rights defenders has continued 10.
1 The group of the 16 countries who provide the most international aid to Honduras.
2 “Urgente: asesinan a periodista en Morazán, Yoro”, FIAN Honduras, 11 May 2011, http://www.fian.hn/v1/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=511:
urgente-asesinan-periodista-en-moraz%C3%A1n-yoro&Itemid=4.
3 Campesino refers to a small-scale farmer or agricultural worker.
4 “Acribillan a dirigente de la ANACH”, Tiempo, 18 May 2011, http://www.tiempo.hn/sucesos/item/8487-acribillan-a-dirigente-de-la-anach.html.
5 “Honduras - Bajo Aguán: Otros dos campesinos asesinados”, FIAN Honduras, May 2011, http://www.fian.hn/v1/index.php?option=comk2&view=item&id
=510:honduras-bajo-agu%C3%A1n-otros-dos-campesinos-asesinados&Itemid=4.
6 “Paramilitares de Miguel Facussé asesinan a campesino en el valle del Aguán”, FIAN Honduras, 17 May 2011, http://www.fian.hn/v1/index.php?option=
com_k2&view=item&id=522:paramilitares-de-miguel-facuss%C3%A9-asesinan-a-campesino-en-el-valle-del-agu%C3%A1n&Itemid=4.
7 Interview with Women’s Rights Centre, San Pedro Sula section, 10 May 2011.
8 “COPINH: Denuncia agresión del ejército contra jóvenes miembros de la organización”, Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations in
Honduras, 14 May 2011, http://www.copinh.org/leer.php/3332854.
9 “Brutal Repression and Backroom Deals in Honduras”, Food First, 7 May 2011, http://www.foodfirst.org/en/node/3419.
10 See exemplary cases in this document: “Journalist assassinations not investigated”, “Assassinations and Militarisation in the Bajo Aguán”, and
“ The Environmental Committee of Siria Valley”.
The situation of human rights defenders
With this report, PBI hopes to contribute to the documentation and publicising of the critical situation for human rights
defenders (HRDs) in Honduras 11, from our vantage point as an international accompaniment and observation organisation
with 30 years of experience working on the subject of protection for human rights defenders in Latin America and on other
continents.
This report highlights the principal risk factors that jeopardise the lives of HRDs, their families and their communities,
in addition to impeding their work in defence of human rights in their country. What follows is an analysis of the three risk
factors identified within the current socio-political context of Honduras:
1. Impunity in cases of human rights violations committed by state and non-state actors;
2. Criminalisation and stigmatisation of human rights defenders;
3. Inefficient implementation of protection measures and mechanisms.
The report looks at exemplary cases that illustrate these risks and their effect on the work of HRDs, emphasising patterns of
harassment that continue against them. Additionally, the report makes recommendations to the international community about
how they can better support the work of HRDs who find themselves under constant pressure.
It is the organisation’s sincere hope that these observations are helpful in the future monitoring and evaluation of the situation
for human rights defenders in Honduras. PBI greatly appreciates the willing and generous collaboration of all the organisations,
individuals, and communities with whom the mission had the pleasure of meeting, and whose experiences, analysis, and hopes
were indispensable in the writing of this report.
Recommendations
1. When attempting to address the high rate of impunity that Honduran
human rights defenders face, the international community should:
• Remind the Honduran State of its responsibility to properly investigate all complaints of human rights violations, prosecute
those accused of such violations, and compensate the victims.
• Remind the Honduran State that it must guarantee judicial independence, as called for by Honduran civil society, in order
to combat impunity and as a basic democratic principal and obligation of countries belonging to the Organisation of
American States 12.
• Monitor the principal of judicial independence—both the regulatory framework that governs it, and compliance with the
guarantees and the fundamental rights that accompany judicial independence in order to combat and reverse the patterns of
impunity that exist in the country.
• Encourage the Honduran State to implement effective mechanisms to resolve disputes over land rights and titles, labour
rights, environmental rights and collective rights such as the right to prior consultation, and ensure that human rights de
fenders do not become targets of intimidation and aggression as a result of their involvement in these disputes.
• Ensure that technical and financial support provided by different international organisations and governments to the Hon
11 The United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders recognises that all people have the right, “individually or collectively, to promote and procure
the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”. As such, PBI recognises a broad definition of the term
human rights defender and includes all persons, groups, organisations, peoples or communities that work in defence of civil and political rights, economic,
social and cultural rights, and collective rights as peoples or communities.
12 Inter-American Democratic Charter, Organization of American States, adopted by the General Assembly at its special session held in Lima, Peru, on
September 11, 2001, Article 3 and 4.
P B I : H o n d u r a s Wo r k i n g G ro u p
duran State and private companies with headquarters based in the cooperating State fully respect and comply with human
rights standards.
• Support the creation of an independent monitoring and investigative body of the United Nations to dismantle paramilitary
forces, illegal groups, and clandestine structures.
2. With regards to the criminalisation and stigmatisation that human rights
defenders in Honduras have reported, the international community should:
• Encourage the Honduran State to ensure that the criminal justice system is not used to the detriment of members of social
and human rights organisations, nor to harass or restrict their legitimate activities in defence of human rights and in
denouncing violations thereof.
• Urge the Honduran State to respect the work of human rights defenders, and publicly recognise their right to do this work
without the risk of intimidation or discrimination against them, their families, organisations, or communities.
• Make public statements that recognise the legitimate work of human rights defenders in Honduras, especially in cases where
they are being stigmatised for their work in defence of human rights.
• Monitor and follow-up on the recommendation of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights which calls on
the Honduran State to review national legislation in order to ensure that it is coherent with international standards,
specifically the crimes of sedition and illicit protests, and those laws that could impede freedom of expression 13.
3. The international community plays a fundamental role in the protection of human rights defenders. Therefore it should:
• Recommend that Honduran State include a special program for the protection of human rights defenders as part of the
currentinitiative to create a National Action Plan for Human Rights.
• Support the creation of an independent and universally recognised database and human rights monitoring system in
consultation with Honduran civil society, with the goal of collecting, systematising and publishing cases of human rights
violations.
• Urge the Honduran State to implement the recommendations of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in the
Preliminary Observations of its visit to Honduras, 15 to 18 May 2010 14 and the recommendations of the United Nations
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights from its report published on 3 March 2010 15.
To the United Nations System:
• Establish an official office of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Honduras in order
to increase protection for human rights defenders, and to enhance monitoring activities regarding their security.
• Program visits to the rural regions highlighted in this report as part of the agenda of the in loco visit of the United Nations
Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Ms. Margaret Sekaggya, planned for this coming
September 2011.
13 “Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the violations of human rights in Honduras since the coup d’état on 28
June 2009”, para. 84, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/13/66, 3 March 2010, http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G10/117/00/PDF/G1011700.
pdf?OpenElement.
14 “Preliminary observations of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on its visit to Honduras on May 15-18, 2010”, OEA/Ser.L/V/II, Doc. 68,
3 June 2010.
15 Ibíd. 13.
The situation of human rights defenders
To the Organisation of American States and Member States thereof:
• Urge and proactively support the permanent monitoring of the human rights situation in Honduras through the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights, promoting in loco visits at least once per year.
• Remind the Honduran State that as a Member State of the OAS and as a State Party to the American Convention on
Human Rights it has a responsibility, recognized by the General Assembly of the OAS, to follow-up on the recommendations
of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights including precautionary measures 16.
• Insist that the Honduran State establish an effective mechanism to protect human rights defenders, and effectively
implement of the precautionary measures granted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
To the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights:
• Take into account the invitations that the Honduran State presents to the Inter-American System, in particular in relation to
in loco visits of the Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Commissioner José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez, and promote
an in loco visit as soon as possible.
• Urge the Honduran State to create a fund specifically to cover the security costs of the beneficiaries of precautionary
measures and implement these measures in an appropriate form and in agreement with the beneficiaries (for example, that
beneficiaries have independent or unarmed options for security).
• Remind the Honduran State that as a Member State of the OAS and as a State Party to the American Convention on
Human Rights it has a responsibility, recognized by the General Assembly of the OAS, to follow-up on the recommendations
of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights including precautionary measures .
• Insist that the Honduran State establish an effective mechanism to protect human rights defenders, and effectively implement
of the precautionary measures granted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
To the European Union and its Member States:
• Dedicate more resources to the distribution of the Local Strategy of the European Union for Human Rights Defenders in
Honduras to civil society organisations, including the farthest regions of the country, in implementing the European Union
Guidelines for Human Rights Defenders. Ensure that the recommendations collected in the document are appropriately and
adequately implemented (for example: make public declarations in favour of the legitimate work of human rights defenders and
publicly reject any acts of violence, threats, or harassment of which they are victims; visit organisations’ offices and be present
during public events such as press conferences; attend public hearings of cases against human rights defenders).
• Implement the plan to create a Liaison Group with Honduran civil society organisations with the purpose of examining cases
of intimidation and attacks against human rights defenders. Ensure that the Liaison Group is representative of the distinct
regions and the diversity of human rights defenders in Honduras.
• Ensure that the elaboration of the Human Rights Country Strategy in Honduras is part of an open and effective consultation
with Honduran civil society (rural and urban) and that the outline of the document is shared prior to publication. We also consider it to be of vital importance that this document contains clear indicators and monitoring and evaluation mechanisms that
include the participation of the Honduran civil society.
16 “AG/RES. 2128 (XXXV-O/05): Observations and Recommendations on the Annual Report of the Inter- American Commission on Human Rights”,
adopted at the fourth plenary session of the General Assembly, held on June 7, 2005, para. 3 b), http://www.oas.org/consejo/GENERAL%20ASSEMBLY/
Resoluciones-Declaraciones.asp
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Report of Short-Term Mission
to Honduras: The situation of
Human Rights Defenders
The situation of human rights defenders
1. Impunity in cases of human rights violations committed by state and non-state
actors
1.1 The Dangerous Cycle of Impunity17
Almost unanimously, the people interviewed by the PBI
mission to Honduras cited impunity as a factor that seriously affects the work and security of human rights defenders. PBI has observed this phenomenon in other countries
in which its presence has been requested: when impunity
becomes the status quo, it becomes nearly impossible for
local authorities to enforce international human rights standards or dissuade against future human rights violations 18.
International mechanisms such as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) have also stated “the
most effective means of protecting human rights defenders
in the Hemisphere is to effectively investigate acts of violence against them and sanction those responsible” 19.
Over the course of the visit, several Honduran organisations
expressed their concern to the mission
regarding the lack of
political will on their
government’s part to
combat and lower
the high level of impunity that affects
the country. Human
rights organisations
in Honduras recognise that the problem of impunity in
their country did not
begin with the coup
d’etat, but they do
emphasise the significant worsening of the situation from
that moment. Since the coup took place, compliance with
minimum international standards of independence and judicial responsibility have not been adequate, according to
people interviewed by the mission 20.
Additionally, these persons underscored the impact of impunity on the high level of violence in the country due to
a lack of an effective judicial system and the persistence of
corruption and illegal clandestine criminal structures 21. In
2010, Honduras registered 6.236 homicides and the rate
of homicides per 100.000 inhabitants rose to 77 22, making
Honduras the most dangerous country in the world.
The mission’s visit to Honduras and the conversations and
research conducted thereafter has shown that HRDs currently find themselves
in a very dangerous
cycle of impunity,
silence, and violence.
The current rate of
impunity in Honduras hovers around
98% 23 for all crimes,
and is even higher
in cases of human
rights
violations.
During its visit, the
mission was able to
directly observe the
disturbing effects of
this cycle on groups
17 For the purpose of this report, the term impunity is understood to mean a lack of investigation of crimes and sanction of responsible parties.
18 “Silence-Impunity-Conflict: breaking a dangerous cycle”, Peace Brigades International, December 2009.
19 “Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas”, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.124 Doc. 5 rev.1,
7 March 2006, para. 202.
20 Interview with the Association of Judges for Democracy, San Pedro Sula, Honduras, 10 May 2011.
21 Interview with FIAN Honduras, Tegucigalpa, Honduras, 3 May 2011.
22 “Aumenta la violencia en Honduras: en 2010 hubo 6.236 homicidios”, América Economía, 13 January 2011, http://www.americaeconomia.com/politicasociedad/mundo/aumenta-la-violencia-en-honduras-en-2010-hubo-6236-homicidios.
23 “Documento que presenta el Centro por la Justicia y el Derecho Internacional (CEJIL) para ser utilizado como insumo en el Examen Periódico Universal del
Estado de Honduras que se llevará a cabo en el mes de noviembre de 2010,” CEJIL, November 2010.
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that have experienced much repression and violence since the
coup in Honduras: journalists, communications activists, and
campesino movements.
Journalist assassinations not investigated
On 11 May 2011, during the visit of the PBI mission to
Honduras, Hector Francisco Medina Polanco, a journalist and General Coordinator of Channel 9 Omega
Visión, was murdered in Morazán, Yoro. In his reports,
Medina Polanco had frequently criticised the actions or
omissions of the National Police and private security
guards that work in the area 24 . Since the coup d’état
in Honduras in June 2009, 12 journalists and communications activists have been assassinated. At the
moment there have been no investigations that have
resulted in formal charges or criminal proceedings in
any of the cases. In this context several international
organisations have highlighted the hostile and unsafe
environment that journalists face in Honduras. Reporters Without Borders has designated Honduras as one
of the most dangerous countries in the work for journalists 25 . The Committee for the Protection of Journalists did a special report about Honduras in 2010 and
concluded, “the continuous failure of the government to
successfully investigate crimes against journalists and
other critics –whether it be due to a lack of will, inability, or incompetence- has created a climate in which
impunity prevails”. The most recent assassination occurred in July of this year: Nery Jeremías Orellana, 26,
died as a result of gunshot wounds in the western department of Lempira on the border with El Salvador.
With him, the number of journalists assassinated this
year rises to three 26 . Recently the Director of UNESCO
released a statement in which she states, “ The assassination of journalists constitutes a crime against society
as a whole”. In this same statement she requests that the
authorities carry out a thorough investigation of these
crimes to assure that everyone in the country is free
to exercise the fundamental human right of freedom of
expression without fearing for their lives 27 .
Assassinations and militarisation
in the Bajo Aguán
During their time in the country, members of the
PBI mission visited the Bajo Aguán region to learn
more about the problems surrounding land ownership in the zone and the root causes of the endemic
violence against organisations and social movements
there. The PBI mission was able to confirm the
militarisation of the zone, which social movements
present there have been denouncing in the wake of
the coup d’état. Just a few days after PBI left the
area, members of the Aguán Campesino Movement
(MCA) informed the mission of three assassinations
that occurred in a period barely spanning a week 28.
The Bajo Aguán region is found in the northeast
part of Honduras in the department of Colón.
Named for the Aguán River that runs through the
zone and feeds in the Caribbean Sea, the region of
Bajo Aguán has been the centre of agrarian reform
programs carried out by the Honduran government.
However, with the advance of neoliberalism in the
90s and consequent changes to agrarian reform laws,
the process of distributing land to campesino collectives became muddled by massive land purchases by
multinational corporations and large landholders.
Since then, Bajo Aguán has been characterised by
intense and violent agrarian conflicts, with a substantial presence of armed forces and private armies
belonging to large landowners. Moreover, the geostrategic position of the region and the increase in
illegal activities such as drug trafficking have created
an extremely dangerous situation for those persons
working to restore their land rights.
As of 15 August, there had been 29 members of
campesino movements killed in the area. These
movements work to unite campesino family cooperatives for the purpose of protecting their rights
to land and property. Of these 29 cases, the Public
Prosecutor in Trujillo (the municipality where the
killings took place) only had files open in 15 of the
cases. Of these 15 files, the investigations were on
hold, and no charges had been filed against any of
the alleged material or intellectual authors of these
crimes 29.
24 Ibíd 2.
25 “La Relatoría para la Libertad de Expresión de CIDH también expresa su preocupación por nuevos ataques contra medios y periodistas en Honduras”,
Reporters Without Borders, 20 September 2010, http://es.rsf.org/honduras.html.
26 Reporters without Borders, World Report 2010, http://en.rsf.org/report-honduras,182.html. See also: “ Violence against journalists: UN experts call upon
Honduras to protect media staff ”, 10 May 2010, http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=10032&LangID=E
27 “UNESCO pide investigar asesinato de periodistas hondureños”, La Tribuna, 20 July 2011, http://www.latribuna.hn/2011/07/20/unesco-pide-investigarasesinato-de-periodistas-hondurenos/
28 Ibíd 4,5.
29 “Honduras: Human Rights Violations in Bajo Aguán International Fact Finding Mission Report”, APRODEV, CIFCA, FIAN, FIDH, Rel-UITA, Via
Campesina Internacional, July 2011.
10
The situation of human rights defenders
The behaviour of the private security guards has been questioned
and denounced by multiple national and international organisations. After the deaths of five campesinos in November 2010, Miguel
Facoussé, owner of the Dinant Group, publicly admitted to having
sent his guards to evict the campesinos that had occupied the disputed lands, stating, “The security guards did what was expected of them
to defend the lands”30. Facoussé has refused to present himself to the
Public Prosecutor’s office to give testimony regarding his alleged involvement, but nor have there been any actions or orders given by the
competent authorities to obligate him to participate in the process. It
should be noted that during the last drafting of this report, 11 people
died (among them five private security guards) between 14 and 15
August in confrontations and attacks wherein private security guards
belonging to the Dinant Group and the Honduran army were involved31. Although both the campesino movements and the Ministry
of Agriculture have stated that these events were not related to disputes of land ownership in the region32, the government has ordered
a new military operation called “Xatruch II” which sent in a force of
1.000 military and police into the zone. Moreover, a spokesperson
for the Dinant Group made an announcement that in light of recent
events it had suspended a recently signed agreement between Dinant,
the government and the United Campesino Movement of the Aguán
regarding the sale of lands in the area33.
1.2 Actions and Omission by the State
1.2.1 Action: the Amnesty Law
It is evident that a lack of resources, training and institutional
support all contribute to the persistence of impunity, as Human
Rights Watch noted in their 2010 report34, but there have also
been decisions on the part of the government that have actively
obstructed justice. The Amnesty Law35 is an example of the dynamic that several civil society organisations described to the PBI
mission: prioritising political and legal protection for some individuals or groups over justice, truth and reparations for the true
victims36.
The IACHR expressed its concern regarding the Amnesty Law
approved by Congress during the Porfirio Lobo government in
February 2010, reiterating “that the application of amnesty laws
that impede access to justice in cases of serious human rights violations contravene States’ obligations under the Americas Convention to respect the rights and freedoms recognised by it” 37. Although it is true that “crimes against humanity and human rights
violations” are excluded from this amnesty, the IACHR still underscores the lack of clarity regarding “precise criteria or concrete
mechanisms” to apply this law.
PBI has observed that the drafting, approval, and implementation of laws of this nature could possibly contribute to the establishment of a dangerous precedent whereby judicial processes
enshrined in the criminal code of a country are made irrelevant as
a result of failure to comply with due process in the phases of the
investigation and trying of the case.
1.2.2 Omission: lack of government
purging
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and
other international organisations have called attention to the
continued presence of persons associated with the coup d’é tat in
Honduran State institutions. In its contribution to the Universal
Periodic Review (UPR) of Honduras, the Centre for Justice and
International Law (CEJIL) highlights several actions that contribute to impunity such as, “the definitive acquittal in the case of
6 soldiers accused of supporting the Coup d’[E]tat (…); awarding the distinction of Representative for Life to Mr. Roberto Micheletti and (…); naming General Romeo Vásquez Velásquez,
who lead the coup d’Etat, as manager of the national telecommunications company (HONDUTEL)” 38 . In a report drafted
by a human rights fact finding mission to the Bajo Aguán in
Honduras 39, the six international organisations comprising the
mission expressed the same concern: “ The government has not
taken any actions to purge these institutions nor to sanction
30 “Miguel Facusse responsabiliza a Cesar Ham de muertes en el Aguán”, Radio HRN, 16 November 2010, http://www.radiohrn.hn/l/content/miguel-facusseresponsabiliza-cesar-ham-de-muertes-en-el-aguán.
31 “Continua el terror y la sangre en el Bajo Aguán”, FIAN Honduras, 17 August 2011, http://www.fian.hn/v1/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id
=682:continua-el-terror-y-la-sangre-en-el-bajo-aguan&Itemid=4
32 “Honduras: Demandan cese a la violencia en el Bajo Aguán e investigaciones efectivas para sancionar a responsables de asesinatos”, Federación Internacional
de Derechos Humanos (FIDH), 19 August 2011.
33 Ibíd. 31.
34 “After the Coup: Ongoing Violence, Intimidation, and Impunity in Honduras”, Human Rights Watch, 2010, p.2-4.
35 This law gives amnesty to those persons accused of political crimes related to the deposing of then-president Manuel Zelaya Rosales and the coup d’etat.
The crimes covered by this law include treason, betraying ones country, terrorism, sedition and “related crimes” that are understood as “impersonation of a
public official, crimes commited against the exercise of rights guaranteed by the Constitution, disobedience, abuse of authority and violating the duties of
public officials”.
36 Interview with the Reflection, Investigation, and Communication Team, El Progreso, Honduras, 11 May 2011.
37 “ IACHR Expresses Concern about Amnesty Decree in Honduras”, Press Release no. 14/10, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, 3 February
2010.
38 Ibíd. 23.
39 Ibíd. 29.
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11
those who failed to fulfil their obligations. Worse still, the current government has nominated high-ranking military officials
and former military officials linked to the coup d’état to public
offices 40; positions that are still standing to this day”. When the
people accused of these crimes continue to be a part of the
same institutions that have the obligation to guarantee justice, it is essential that the Sate take quick and substantial actions to clarify the events and as such preserve the legitimacy
of the State and honour its pledge to society.
Nonetheless the international community recognises certain
positive steps that have been taken by the Honduran State such
as: the creation of the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights;
the creation of the Investigation Unit for Human Rights Violations in the office of the Special Prosecutor for Human Rights;
and the earmarking of additional funds to these institutions to
increase and broaden their activities and the reach of these offices 41. Additionally, the Special Prosecutor for Human Rights
Sandra Ponce stated that they are taking measures to ensure impartial investigations 42, in particular those where police officers
have been accused of human rights violations.
However as of yet there have been very few cases where human
rights violations have been duly investigated and the responsible parties brought to justice. Also, no investigations into
complaints of human rights violations committed by private
security forces have been concluded 43. The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) in a press release following their visit to
Honduras in March of this year lamented that there have not
been any, “specific actions taken in support of justice and the
Rule of Law” since their visit in December 2010. They maintain
that “offers of good will on the part of different high ranking
officials in the Honduran State could become simply rhetoric
without true interest nor the indispensable political will to advance an agenda of reconciliation and restoration of constitutional” 44. Until concrete legal advancements that demonstrate
the intolerance of the State towards those persons who violate
human rights have been produced, there will continue to be
serious obstacles to carrying out work in defence of human
rights in Honduras.
1.2.3 Weaknesses in the judicial system
Another issue people interviewed by the mission highlighted
as contributing to impunity is the weakness of the judicial
system and its inability to ensure independent functioning. In
the context of the coup d’état, the judicial branch played
a controversial role, both in terms of the public support
and legal protection it extended to perpetrators of the
coup, as well as legal actions taken against officers of the
court and judges who publicly expressed their opposition
to the coup and disagreement with the Supreme Court.
Actions such as these contributed to the lack of confidence
in judicial institutions as well as their ability to guarantee
the respect of and adhesion to the Constitution and the
rights enshrined therein.
Rejection of appeals of unconstitutionality and habeas
corpus
Decisions made by the Supreme Court in response to appeals
of unconstitutionality and claims of habeas corpus registered
during the coup to protect the fundamental rights of the population
are an example of how the Court limited the application of
justice.
The Court rejected or delayed all of these appeals, blocking the
possibility of opening criminal proceedings against those persons accused of arbitrary detention45 and contributing to the
tendency to not prosecute human rights violations committed
in the context of the coup d’état. In this context, one sees the
reticence of victims to present their complaints with the relevant
institutions of the Honduran government. This is reflected in a
report by the ICJ following their visits in December 2010 and
March 2011: “The victims of these serious crimes continue to
40 The following nominations were made by the current administration: Division General Venancio Cervantes is the General Director of Migration and
Immigration (he was assistant director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time of the coup d’état); Brigade General Manuel Enrique Cáceres is the
Director of Civil Aeronautics; the ex-General Nelson Wily Mejía is now in charge of the Marine Mercantile Administration and the ex-General Romeo
Vásquez Velásquez is the manager of the Honduran Telecomunicaciones company (Hondutel) (he was the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces at the
time of the coup). IACHR. Preliminary Comments from the Inter-American Court for Human Rights on their visit to Honduras from 15th – 18th May
2010. OAS/Ser.L/V/II. Doc. 68. 3rd June 2010, par. 124.
41 “Preliminary observations of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on its visit to Honduras, May 15 to 18, 2010”, OEA/Ser.L/V/II,
Doc. 68, 3 June 2010.
42 Interview with Sandra Ponce, Special Prosecutor for Human Rights, Tegucigalpa, Honduras, 20 May 2011.
43 Ibíd. 21.
44 “Pronunciamiento de la Comisión Internacional de Juristas en ocasión de finalizar su visita a Honduras,” Press Release, International Commission of Jurists,
18 March 2011.
45 “Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the violations of human rights in Honduras since the coup d’état on 28 June
2009”, Human Rights Council, United Nations, A/HRC/13/66, paragraph 72, 3 March 2010.
12
The situation of human rights defenders
seek justice at the international level, which only further affects
the credibility of political institutions [in Honduras]”46 .
Judicial guidelines
One aspect of the Honduran judicial system that has been highlighted by several national and international bodies is the lack of
judicial guidelines that can guarantee independence in the judicial branch, oversight in the appointment of judges and the regulation of the profession47. Honduran human rights organisations
pointed out the lack of judicial independence as a weakness of
the State in their contributions to the UPR: “The appointments
for positions such as Commissioner of Human Rights, Prosecutor General and Supreme Court Magistrates are not done by
independent bodies. Rather, political agreements are made and
voted on during Congress plenary meetings without any debate
nor parliamentary scrutiny of the candidates”48. Marcia Aguiluz,
a lawyer with CEJIL noted “the fact that the Supreme Court
concentrates all its jurisdictional and administrative functions
gives it a wide margin of power (…) approving a law establishing judicial guidelines and Judgeship Council as well as putting
these measures into effect is fundamental in the process of closing the doors to those who would abuse their power”49.
Judges dismissed from office
The Association of Judges for Democracy (AJD) formed
in 2006 in Honduras with the objective of monitoring
judicial independence and guidelines in the country. After the Supreme Court announced its support for the
coup d’état, declaring it a “constitutional succession”, the
organisation publicly positioned itself against the coup
d’état. Four members of the organisation (three judges
and a magistrate) were removed from office and had disciplinary charges filed against them for making these
public statements, and currently all four have yet to be
reinstated. It should be noted that the Supreme Court
justified the firing of these people with the argument
that by publicly stating their opposition to the coup, the
judges and the magistrate violated the statute prohibiting participation of members of the judgeship in partisan
activities of this type. However, one should take into account the fact that none of the judges or functionaries of
the Judicial Branch that publicly expressed their support
for the coup suffered the same punishment. This shows
clear evidence of the selective application of an administrative regulation. Multiple organisations and international institutions have recommended to the Honduran
government that they close the cases against them and
restore them to their posts, but the government has not
responded to these recommendations 50.
46 Ibíd. 43.
47 “ Informe del Grupo de Trabajo del Examen Periódico Universal,” United Nations Human Rights Council, 16th period of sessions, Item 6 on the Agenda,
Universal Periodic Review p.82.70, 4 January 2011.
48 “Honduras Informe de las organizaciones de sociedad civil sobre la situación de los derechos humanos Al Consejo de Derechos Humanos de la ONU”,
Universal Periodic Review, Ninth Session of the UPR Working Group, Joint Submission No. 6 comprised of: El Comité por la Libre Expresión, C-libre,
Centro de Derechos de Mujeres, CDM; Centro de Prevención, Tratamiento y Rehabilitación de las Víctimas de la Tortura y sus Familiares, CPTRT;
CATTRACHAS; Observatorio Ecuménico de las Iglesias, CLAI; Frente de Abogados contra el Golpe; Centro de Estudios de la Mujer-Honduras, CEM-H;
Asociación Casa Alianza; Confederación Unitaria de Trabajadores de Honduras, CUTH; Asociación Nacional de Escritoras de Honduras, ANDE-H;
Centro de Investigación y Promoción de Derechos Humanos, CIPRODEH, November 2010.
49 “Sistema judicial requiere la aprobación urgente del Consejo de la Judicatura”, Defensores en Línea, 25 May 2010, http://www.defensoresenlinea.com/cms/
index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=767:sistema-judicial-requiere-la-aprobacion-urgente-del-consejo-de-la-judicatura&Itemid=192
50 Interview with the Association of Judges for Democracy, San Pedro Sula, Honduras, 10 May 2011.
P B I : H o n d u r a s Wo r k i n g G ro u p
13
2. The criminalisation and stigmatisation of human rights defenders
Criminalisation
The term “criminalisation” describes a tendency
by State and non-state actors to use “legal actions
against defenders, including criminal or administrative investigations or actions that are pursued to harass and discredit them” 51. The processes judicialising
or criminalising the work of human rights defenders
can paralyse the work of social organisations because
of the accusations, judgements and/or penalties imposed, and by creating or strengthening a process of
self-censorship 52.
Stigmatisation
Stigmatisation refers to smear campaigns or official declarations against human rights defenders
or their work 53 . This includes characterising the
work of human rights defenders as illegal, dangerous, or a threat to national security 54 . At the same
time this stigmatisation causes human rights defenders to because more vulnerable to harassment
by state and non-state actors 55 .
2.1 Patterns and legal instruments
used to criminalise and stigmatise
HRDs in Honduras
The PBI mission in Honduras observed, with particular
concern, patterns that criminalise and stigmatise HRDs
in the country. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders 56 and the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) 57 have identified
both of these patterns in many parts of the world as being
used to impede the work of defending human rights. In the
interviews conducted, the criminalisation of social protest
and the disproportional use of force during these protests, a
series of new laws that have the potential to be used against
HRDs, and public statements made against HRDs, were all
identified as components of these patterns. The apparent
contradiction in the application of justice, however, was especially worrying to the members of the PBI mission.
Interviewees contrasted high levels of impunity in cases of
human rights violations with, conversely, the timely and agile response of the judicial system (e.g., issuing arrest warrants, speeding up the legal process) in cases against HRDs
that could lead to penalties and further stigmatisation by
presenting HRDs as delinquents 58.
2.1.1 Criminalisation of social protest
and the disproportional use of violence
During the interviews, the HRDs specifically highlighted the
tendency to criminalise social protest and the disproportional
use of violence against peaceful demonstrations. Almost all
of the organisations and people we spoke to stated that the
repression against a series of protests led by striking teachers
in March 2011 was comparable or even more violent than the
repression during the coup d’état 59, resulting in various people being detained, injured, and one person killed 60. Social
organisations have formally complained about the serious injuries caused by the use of tear gas against people by security
forces in closed spaces 61. Representatives of the diplomatic
community also expressed their concern for the way in which
security forces used tear gas during these demonstrations 62.
51 Ibíd. 19, para. 178.
52 “Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Margaret Sekaggya”, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation
of Human Rights Defenders, UN Doc. A/HRC/13/22, 30 December 2009, para. 32.
53 Ibíd. 19, para. 175-177.
54 Ibíd. 52, para. 175-177.
55 Ibíd. 52, para. 32.
56 Ibíd. 52, para. 26 – 37.
57 Ibíd. 19.
58 Ibíd. 52 para. 32.
59 Interview with Association of Judges for Democracy, San Pedro Sula, Honduras, 10 May 2011; interview with the Reflection, Investigation, and
Comunication Team (ERIC) and Radio Progreso, El Progreso, Honduras, 11 May 2011; interview with the Association for the Development of Zacate
Grande Peninsula, Zacate Grande, Honduras, 14 May 2011; and interview with OFRANEH, Tela, Honduras, 11 May 2011.
60 “Criminalisación de la Protesta Pública, Represión de Manifestaciones Públicas y Tratos Crueles inhumanos y degradantes”, Letter to European
Parliamentary Representatives from Bertha Oliva de Nativí, General Coordinator of COFADEH, Equipo Niskor, 17 May 2011,
http://www.derechos.org/niskor/honduras/doc/cofadeh34.html
61 Ibíd 60.
62 Interview with personel from the French Embassy, Tegucigalpa, Honduras, 19 May 2011.
14
The situation of human rights defenders
The organisations expressed particular concern for the
apparent targeting of social leaders and journalists 63 by
security forces during the protests, with objective of either
arresting them or confiscating their equipment 64.
The disproportional use of force
The high number of military personnel present and the
use of disproportional force during raids or in the delivery of legal notifications were repeatedly mentioned
by the organisations interviewed. One such example
took place on 28 November 2009, when the Red COMAL experienced a raid at their offices carried out by
50 police and military agents armed with M-50 machine guns 65. On another occasion in April 2010, 15
armed police agents arrived first at the school and later
at the house of Carlos Amador, member of the Environmental Committee of Valle de Siria and social communicator, in order to deliver a legal summons 66.
against persons who engaged in actions with a political dimension, such as painting graffiti with a political message or
the simple act of participating in a political demonstration 70.
For example, during the teachers’ protests in March 2011, 17
people were charged with the crime of sedition and holding
illicit gatherings 71. Various organisations expressed their
concern to PBI that participating in peaceful demonstrations or simply carrying out their work defending human
rights entails the possibility of being charged with sedition, disobedience, or other crimes 72.
2.1.2 Criminal accusations of sedition
According the Special Prosecutor for Human Rights, the
crime of sedition as established by the Honduran Penal
Code and as it is being applied refers to acts of opposition
or political demonstrations that have been classified as violent or illicit 67. The crime of sedition can result in a jail
term of between 5 and 10 years and a fine of between fifty
thousand and one hundred thousand Lempiras 68. In March
2010, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed its concern for the inappropriate use
of the accusation of the crime of sedition in the period following the coup d’état, and recommended adjusting national
legislation to meet international standards 69. However, the
PBI mission could find charges of sedition in various cases
as recently as February and March 2011.
The Special Prosecutor for Human Rights explained to members of the mission that charges of sedition could be levelled
63 “Office of the Special Rapporteur Expresses Concern over Attacks Against Media in Honduras”, Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, IACHR,
Press Release R27/11, 30 March 2011. http://www.cidh.org/relatoria/showarticle.asp?artID=835&lID=1
64 Interview with the Association for the Development of Zacate Grande Peninsula, Zacate Grande, Honduras, 14 May 2011; interview with the Reflection,
Investigation, and Comunication Team (ERIC) and Radio Progreso, El Progreso, Honduras, 11 May 2011; and interview with journalist Felix Molina,
Tegucigalpa, Honduras, 2 May 2011.
65 Interview with the COMAL Network, Tegucigalpa, Honduras, 2 May 2011.
66 Interview with members of the Environmental Committee of the Valley of Siria, El Porvenir, Honduras, 12 May 2011.
67 Ibíd. 42.
68 “DECRETO 144-83: Código Penal”, Poder Judicial de Honduras, In force since 12 March 1985, Capitulo VII: Sedición, Articulo 337,
http://www.poderjudicial.gob.hn/juris/Codigos/C%C3%B3digo%20Penal%20%2809%29.pdf
69 “Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the violations of human rights in Honduras since the coup d’état on 28 June
2009”, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/13/66, 3 March 2010.
70 Ibíd. 42.
71 Ibíd. 60.
72 Interview with ERIC and Radio Progresso, El Progresso, Honduras, 11 May 2011 and members of the organisation COFADEH, Tegucigalpa, Honduras,
2 May 2011.
P B I : H o n d u r a s Wo r k i n g G ro u p
15
The Fraternal Black Organisation
of Honduras (OFRANEH)
OFRANEH works with 46 garifuna communities on
issues such as economic, social, and cultural rights,
specifically by defending natural resources that are
found within ancestral territories of the garifuna communities 73. The members of OFRANEH have historically experienced criminalisation 74 and stigmatisation,
but since the coup d’état they have noted an increase
in repression against the social leaders of their organisation 75. On the 28 March 2011, Miriam Miranda, the
Executive Director of the organisation, was attacked
with tear gas and arrested by public security forces
during a demonstration in the city of Tela 76. Despite
having serious burns, Ms. Miranda did not receive
medical attention nor was she granted access to legal
representation until 6 hours after her detention. Currently, Ms. Miranda is free on bail, which means that
at any moment she can be incarcerated again on the
charge of sedition 77.
The Association for the Development of the Zacate Grande
Peninsula and Voice of Zacate
Grande
The Voice of Zacate Grande is a community radio station that was created with goal of raising awareness
about human rights and news in the country. The Association for the Development of the Zacate Grande
Peninsula (ADEZPA) is an organisation that works to
protect the land rights of the communities of Zacate
Grande 78. Members of both organisations have experienced harassment, violence, and discrimination, and are
subject to various criminal processes. In April 2010, the
same month that the radio station was burned, a Public Prosecutor filed a criminal complaint against several
members of the Voice of Zacate Grande for usurping
the land where the radio is located, and defrauding the
public administration for installing a radio without the
authorisation of CONATEL 79 . When PBI met with
them in May 2011, the Public Prosecutor’s Office had
broadened those charges to include contempt, alleging
that by entering the premises of the radio station they
had illegally entered a crime scene80.
Eight members of the radio station were on parole, and
had to appear before the Court every two weeks. The
terms of their parole also prohibited them from entering the building that houses the radio station. Members
of the radio station stated that they live with a permanent fear that at any moment the Public Prosecutor
could open judicial proceeding against others at the
radio. Another example of the criminalisation suffered
by members of these organisations took place on the 15
December 2010, when two journalists from the radio
station were detained while covering a forced eviction
in the town of El Coyolito, Valle81. The public security forces confiscated their journalist credentials and
equipment, and kept them detained and incommunicado for 36 hours 82. Currently, both journalists are facing
charges of disobedience and are on parole83.
The IACHR awarded precautionary members to all of
the communications activists of the Voice of Zacate
Grande in April of this year 84, after a shooting attack
against the Director of the radio, Franklin Meléndes85.
In comparison with the judicial proceedings brought
against members of the radio station and the Association, two individuals accused in this attack were released only a few weeks after the incident. Currently,
one of the accused is living on the same street of Mr.
Meléndes and his family.
73 Interview with members of OFRANEH, Tela, Honduras, 11 May 2011.
74 See “Case Lópes Álvares Vs. Honduras”, Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Sentence, 1 February 2006. Series C No. 14, http://www.corteidh.or.cr/
docs/casos/articulos/seriec_141_esp.pdf
75 Interview with members of OFRANEH, Tela, Honduras, May 11, 2011; interview with the community of Triunfo de la Crus, Honduras, 10 May 2011.
76 “Repudiamos la detención arbitraria de Miriam Miranda, dirigente de OFRANEH, y exigimos su inmediata liberación”, Gritos de los Excluidos, 28 March
2011, http://www.gritodelosexcluidos.org/article/repudiamos-la-detencion-abritraria-de-miriam-miran/
77 Ibíd. 73.
78 Interview with The Voice of Zacate Grande and the Association for the Development of the Zacate Grande Peninsula, Zacate Grande, Honduras, 14 May 2011.
79 Ibíd. 41, para. 41.
80 Interview with The Voice of Zacate Grande and the Association for the Development of the Zacate Grande Peninsula , Zacate Grande, Honduras, 14 May 2011.
81 “ The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of expresses its concern over the recent acts of harassment sustained by several
community radio broadcasters in Honduras”, Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, IACHR, Press Release R1/11, 11 January 2011,
http://www.cidh.oas.org/relatoria/showarticle.asp?artID=831&lID=1
82 Ibíd. 41, para. 41.
83 Ibíd. 80.
84 “PM 115/11 – Comunicators of The Voice of Zacate Grande, Honduras”, IACHR, granted April 18, 2011.
85 “Office of the Special Rapporteur Expresses Concern over Attacks Against Media in Honduras”, Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Press Release R27/11, 30 March 2011, http://www.cidh.org/relatoria/showarticle.asp?artID=835&lID=2
16
The situation of human rights defenders
2.1.3 New legal instruments to
criminalise and stigmatise
The majority of the organisations interviewed by the mission referenced a series of laws and legislative reforms that
they fear could be used to control or criminalise their work.
In particular, organisations expressed uneasiness about the
Law against Financing Terrorism 86 and the proposed Special
Law to Support Development Organisations (NGOD); they
do not oppose the better control and transparency of their
finances or strengthening the fight against organised crime,
but these laws create “judicial insecurity for non-governmental organisations” 87. They believe that in the current climate
these laws could be used against them to interfere in their
internal policies or to stigmatise them even further. These
fears are based in statements from government officials such
as the Security Minister who, while the Law against Financing Terrorism was being debated in Congress, that “the organisations must demonstrate that their resources are being
used for social advancement and not for marches that destabilise the country” 88.
The Law against Financing Terrorism, approved in November 2010 and brought into force on 9 April 2011, requires non-profit organisations to inform the Financial
Information Unit of all donations equal to or greater than
USD$2.000. Failure to comply brings sanctions that range
from monthly fines of 2.000 Lempiras to the dissolution of
the organisation or the association 89. According to the social
organisations, one of their primary concerns is the fact that
the law “does not stipulate any process that would be used to
establish the sanctions mentioned, nor guarantee the right
of defence, which would evidently generate arbitrary decisions and seriously impact those who are subject to this law,
which includes human rights organisations” 90.
The Special Law to Support Development Organisations,
known as the Law of NGOs, defines and limits a development organisation as an organisation that dedicates itself
“exclusively to activities of general interest to society in humanitarian and social assistance, the protection of individual
and social constitutional guarantees and rights of democracy,
institutional framework of the State, promotion of human
development, education, health, the economy, the environment and other civic, sporting, and recreational activities” 91.
Although this law has not yet entered into force, apart from
defining what constitutes a development organisation, it
creates an NGO Registry to which all of the registered organisations will have to submit their accounts, budgets, and
information about the source and origin of the organisation’s
funds 92. Several organisations have pointed out the risk “that
the State will be able to arbitrarily, through the Secretary of
the Interior and Population (SEIP), cancel the legal status
of institutions registered as NGOs with the Registry and
Tracking Unit of Civil Associations (URSAC), simply for
being suspected of undertaking illicit activities such as drug
trafficking and money laundering” 93. ” . Members the Centre
for the Investigation and Promotion of Human Rights (CIPRODEH) told the PBI mission that during the coup d’état
the Secretary of the Interior called for a revision of their
accounts and legal status, and more recently questioned the
organisation’s capacity to represent human rights defenders
in legal proceedings at the Inter-American Human Rights
System because of their legal status 94. The risk for human
rights organisations is the control the government will have
to question the work of organisations that criticise the public policies of the Honduran State 95. In the end, these new
laws allow for the possibility to criminalise and stigmatise
human rights defenders, both individually and as social organisations.
86 “Ley contra el Financiamiento del Terrorismo, Decreto No. 241-2010”, Published in the official newspaper la Gaceta, 11 December 2010,
http://www.sefin.gob.hn/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/DECRETO-EJECUTIVO-NUMERO-PCM-017-2011.pdf
87 Ibíd. 44.
88 “Honduras: Con ley antiterrorismo se legalisará la represión a la Resistencia Popular”, Contrainjerencia, 26 November 2010,
http://contrainjerencia.com/index.php/?p=1844
89 “Carta de Cofadeh informando al G-16 de actuaciones incompatibles con los derechos humanos por parte de Porfirio Lobo”, Equipo Nisqor, 28 April 2011,
http://www.derechos.org/niskor/honduras/doc/cofadeh36.html
90 Ibíd 89.
91 “ONG que no rindan cuentas serán canceladas: Foprideh”, La Tribuna, 7 April 2011, http://www.latribuna.hn/2011/04/07/ong-que-no-rindan-cuentasseran-canceladas-foprideh/
92 Ibíd 91.
93 “GSC considera que Ley de las ONGD es una amenasa para organisaciones progresistas”, Grupo de la Sociedad Civil, Revistaso, 8 June 2011,
http://www.revistaso.bis/cms/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2187&joscclean=1&comment_id=20977&Itemid=61
94 Interview with CIPRODEH, Tegucigalpa, Honduras, 4 May 2011.
95 “GSC considera que Ley de las ONGD es una amenasa para organisaciones progresistas”, Grupo de la Sociedad Civil, Revistaso, 8 June 2011,
http://www.revistaso.bis/cms/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2187&joscclean=1&comment_id=20977&Itemid=61; Interview with
CIPRODEH, Tegucigalpa, Honduras, May 4, 2011; interview with the Association of Judges for Democracy, Tegucigalpa, Honduras, May 10, 2011;
interview with FIAN-Honduras, Tegucigalpa, Honduras, 3 May 2011.
P B I : H o n d u r a s Wo r k i n g G ro u p
17
2.1.4 Public statements against human rights defenders
PBI has followed with great concern the declarations and
public statements against human rights defenders by highlevel public officials and relevant personalities in the country.
In this vein, the Minister of Security, Oscar Álvares Guerrero,
has made public statements blaming human rights organisations for contributing to the destabilisation of the government and accusing them of supporting armed groups in the
region of Bajo Aguán 96. The President of Honduras, Porfino
Lobo Sosa, while travelling in the United States, accused human rights organisations of making a business out of criticising the country at the international level, saying that “today
there is a mixing of the political and there are many organisations for whom it is a large source of income to plant the idea
that there is a dramatic situation in the country” 97. Miguel
Facoussé Barjum, President of the Dinant Group, published
a paid advertisement naming various human rights defenders
and stating that these individuals were acting “irresponsibly
and with perverse intentions” for making formal international
complaints about the human rights situation in Honduras 98.
Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous
Organisations of Honduras (COPINH)
COPINH is a non-governmental organisation that works
for human rights, the conservation of the environment,
and the recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples 99 .
COPINH and its members have made formal complaints
about the types of aggressions and threats against them, including smear campaigns, physical attacks, and the detention of its members for participating in demonstrations 100.
In January 2011, agents from the T-Power Measurement
Service of Honduras entered the COPINH offices and
cut the electricity, preventing the transmission of the radio stations Guarajambla and the Voice of the Lenca 101.
Members of the organisation have expressed their con-
cern about having experienced various public smear campaigns, including the campaign promoted by the Minister
of Security when he stated publicly that: “in Aguán there
are Copines” 102 . With this comment the Minister wanted,
in some form, insinuate that the members of COPINH are
promoting the destabilisation of the Bajo Aguán region.
Another example of the stigmatisation that members of
the organisation have suffered is the accusations made by
municipal government officials in the media that members
of COPIHN had burned down a school 103. One week after
the mission met with members of COPIHN, we received
news that soldiers dressed in civilian clothes arrived at a
community festival in Llano Grande, Colomoncagua and
when some younger members of COPINH approached
them, the soldiers began to attack the youths, resulting in
two of the members of COPINH being injured, one of
them seriously 104. These examples help to demonstrate a
very problematic dynamic that begins with the public
stigmatisation of a movement or an organisation which
is then used to justify the use of force against members
of these organisations.
Although the cases mentioned appear to be cases in which
authorities have made isolated statements, they have a collective impact in the work and the lives of HRDs. The Special Prosecutor for Human Rights, Sandra Ponce, also expressed her concern for the polarised environment and the
stigmatisation of certain sectors of the civil society, in particular citing potentially inflammatory newspaper headlines
such as “ The Teacher’s Cartel” 105. In the context of almost
complete impunity for human rights violations, stigmatisation and criminal accusations against HRDs increases their
vulnerability to these attacks, threats, and discrimination.
The mission received the testimony of one HRD who was
refused medical treatment after having been shot and injured, for having been signalled as a delinquent when exercising his right to defend human rights 106. Given the panorama presented here, with physical attacks and the threat
of criminal proceeding for legitimate work, it is complicated
96 “Relatora de la ONU conoce de hostigamiento contra organisaciones de derechos humanos”, FIAN Honduras, 20 January 2011,
http://www.fian.hn/v1/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=321:relatora-de-la-onu-conoce-de-hostigamiento-contra-organisaciones-de-derechoshumanos&Itemid=4; “ONG financian grupos armados al norte de Honduras”, El Heraldo, 25 November 2011, http://www.elheraldo.hn/Pa%C3%ADs/Edi
ciones/2010/11/25/Noticias/ONG-financian-grupos-armados-al-norte-de-Honduras.
97 “Hacen negocio con DD HH, critica Pepe Lobo”, La Prensa, 9 November 2011, http://www.laprensa.hn/Pa%C3%ADs/Ediciones/2010/11/09/Noticias/
Hacen-negocio-con-DD-HH-critica-Pepe-Lobo; “Defensores de DD.HH. se dejan llevar por dólares del extranjero”, La Tribuna, 9 November 2011,
http://www.latribuna.hn/2010/11/09/defensores-de-ddhh-se-dejan-llevar-por-dolares-del-extranjero/
98 Comunicado de Prensa, “Al Pueblo Hondureño y Comunidad Internacional,” La Tribuna, 13 April 2011.
99 Interview with COPINH, La Esperanza, Honduras, 8 May 2011.
100 Ibíd. 99.
101 “Relatoría Especial manifiesta su preocupación por hostigamientos de radios comunitarias en Honduras”, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression,
IACHR, Comunicado de Prensa R1/11, 11 January 2011, http://www.cidh.oas.org/relatoria/showarticle.asp?artID=831&lID=2
102 Ibíd. 99.
103 “Selayistas quemaron escuela en Lempira”, El Heraldo, 11 May 2011, http://www.elheraldo.hn/Pa%C3%ADs/Ediciones/2011/03/11/Noticias/Selayistasquemaron-escuela-en-Lempira; “Gobierno condena incendio de escuela en aldea de Lempira”, La Tribuna, 11 May 2011,
http://www.latribuna.hn/2011/03/11/gobierno-condena-incendio-de-escuela-en-aldea-de-lempira/
104 “Denuncia agresión del ejercito contra jóvenes miembros de la organisación”, Press release, COPINH, 14 May 2011, http://www.copinh.org/leer.
php/3332854
105 Ibíd. 42.
106 Ibíd. 80.
18
The situation of human rights defenders
for HRDs to approach State authorities to ask for protection when it is the representatives of these same institutions
that are calling them delinquents and dangerous.
This continues in spite of the recommendation of the UN
Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders that public recognition by States, and in virtue their
representatives, of the important and legitimate nature of
human rights work is the first step in protecting human
rights defenders 107.
Environmental Committee of the Siria
Valley
The Environmental Committee of the Siria Valley
works to defend human rights and the environment, and
in particular have focused a large part of their work on
the impacts of mining in Honduras. After the mission,
members of the Environmental Committee of the Siria
Valley, Carlos Amador, Marlon Hernándes y Juan Ángel
Renunco were arrested under a judicial order early in
the morning 6 July 2011 108. These members of the Committee, along with 15 more members of the same organisation and from the Community Council of El Terrero
and 17 people from the community of El Suyatal are
facing charges for the crime of obstructing the execution of a forest management plan because of their participation in a demonstration to prevent the logging of
the micro watershed el Tapalito on 6 April 2011. The
judge released them on bail as long as they could fulfil
a series of conditions of parole until the first hearing
in the case could be held 109. In this initial hearing, the
presiding judge decided that the case would continue
and ordered 17 people, including the members of the
Environmental Committee, to be put on parole 110. The
conditions of parole, which are much stricter than those
granted originally, mean that these individuals must
register at the Court every Friday, they cannot leave the
country, and they are not allowed to visit the site where
the forest is to be logged 111. For the 13 people from
the community of El Suyatal, at a separate hearing on
5 August 2011, “the presiding Judge granted a temporary acquittal because the prosecution failed to prove
that the 13 accused had participated in the protest that
prevented the logging of the forest” 112. Given that the
crime of obstructing the implementation of a forest
management plan includes penalties of between 4 and
6 years in prison 113, PBI continues to be concerned for
situation of the members of the Environmental Committee of the Siria Valley.
24 August Farmers Association
The 24 August Farmers Association in el Rincón,
Siguatepeque, is an associative farmers company that has
lived on and worked a 2.000 acre (approx) parcel of land
for more than 30 years 114. The association was created
in 1983. By 1985 they had been granted a guarantee of
occupation, and in 1995 they obtained a supplementary
title to a portion of this same land 115. In 2003, an individual appeared and presented a title to the land in
question and since this time the members of the Farmers
Association have faced a series of criminal and civil proceedings 116. The community has suffered at least 4 forced
evictions during which their crops were burned and several people were injured. The most recent eviction took
place on 2 June 2011 117. On 24 May 2008 during one of
the forced evictions, Antonio Molino Nicolás was killed.
He was not found in the disputed land at the time of the
eviction, but in the community. To date there has been
no trial in regards to the killing of Mr. Molino Nicolás even though 20 members of the Farmers Association
have charges of usurpation against them and have been
on parole for 3 years for which they must travel to register at the Court every two weeks 118.
107 Ibíd. 52, para. 114.
108 “Acción Urgente: Estado de Honduras Continúa criminalisando Defensores de Derechos Humanos”, COFADEH, 6 July 2011,
http://www.defensoresenlinea.com/cms/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1470:juesa-criminalisa-defensa-del-bosque-en-el-valle-desiria&catid=42:seg-y-jus&Itemid=159
109 Ibíd 108.
110 “Auto de prisión para ambientalistas del Valle de Siria”, Defensores en Línea, 2 August 2011, http://www.defensoresenlinea.com/cms/index.php?option=
com_content&view=article&id=1531:auto deprision-para-ambientalistas-del-valle-de-siria&catid=58:amb&Itemid=181
111 Communication with members of the Environmental Committee of Siria Valley, 2 August 2011.
112 “Sobreseimiento provisional para pobladores de El Suyatal”, Defensores en Línea, 5 August 2011, http://www.defensoresenlinea.com/cms/index.php?view
=article&catid=58%3Aamb&id=1538%3Asobreseimiento-provisional-para-pobladores-de-el-suyatal&option=com_content&Itemid=181
113 “Ley forestal de áreas protegidas y vidas silvestres, Decreo No. 98-2007”, Articulo 186 published in the newspaper la Gaceta, 26 February 2008,
http://www.serna.gob.hn/DGA/Ley%20Forestal%20Areas%20Protegidas%20y%20Vida%20Silvestre%20-%20Gaceta.pdf
114 Interview with Associative Company 24th of August, El Rincon Siguatepeque Honduras, 8 May 2011.
115 “Empresa Asociativa Campesina “24 de Agosto”, Fian Hondura, 30 September 2009, http://www.fian.hn/v1/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=9:emp
116 Ibíd. 114.
117 “Campesinos de Siguatepeque, agredidos nuevamente por policías y terratenientes”, Empresa Asociativa 24 de Agosto, Comunicado de Prensa, 2 de junio
2011, http://voselsoberano.com/v1/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=11518:campesinos-de-siguatepeque-agredidos-nuevamente-porpolicias-y-terratenientes&catid=24:comunicados
118 Ibíd. 114.
P B I : H o n d u r a s Wo r k i n g G ro u p
19
3. Lack of implementation of Protection Mechanisms for Human Rights Defenders
3.1 The Protection of Human Rights
Defenders
The PBI mission was able to observe a few patterns of the attacks that human rights defenders are suffering in Honduras.
In the interviews, the mission received information about
direct telephone threats; indirect threats via third persons;
selective killings of groups such as journalists and communications activists, peasant farmers, members of LGBTQ community, and teachers; attacks by private security
guards including kidnappings, threats, assassinations, and
harassment; attacks against the offices of social organisations such as break-ins and raids, and intimidating visits
from unknown individuals; burning of community radio
equipment; surveillance and stalking; smear campaigns;
and excessive criminal proceedings against human rights
defenders. In order to confront these attacks, Honduran organisations have implemented their own protection measures
and have organised themselves to present cases and formal
complaints in front of international protection and investigative mechanisms like the IACHR, the International Criminal
Court (ICC), and United Nations Human Rights System.
State responsibility to protect human
rights defenders
The United Nations Declaration on Human Rights
Defenders recognises the responsibility of States to
guarantee the protection of human rights defenders
against all forms of violence, threats, harassment, or
discrimination 119 .
The IACHR reaffirms the fact that States have the obligation to respect and protect the human rights, enshrined in international treaties and instruments, of
all persons under their jurisdiction and that the labour
of human rights defenders is fundamental in guaranteeing rule of law, the existence of full democracy, and
the universal implementation of human rights 120 .
Multiple individuals, communities, and organisations that
have been attacked for their work defending human rights,
told the mission that they perceive international justice and
mechanisms as the only way to confront the risks they suffer. According to them, effective protection mechanisms at
the local level simply do not exist 121. In an IACHR hearing at
the end of March 2011, representatives from the Honduran
State announced the creation of a national plan to develop a
Protocol for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders 122.
The IACHR has recommended that this protocol be created
in accordance with international standards and that the protection measures be developed in consultation with the beneficiaries of such measures 123.
3.2 International Protection Mechanisms
for Human Rights Defenders
The Precautionary Measures of
IACHR
The IACHR awards precautionary measures in serious and
urgent situations to prevent irreparable harm to people, individually or collectively, in connection with a case or petition currently before the Commission or the Inter-American
Court of Human Rights, or to people who are under the jurisdiction of the Commission, independent of whether there
is a case or petition124. The General Assembly of the OAS
has recognised the importance of precautionary measures125
and the IACHR itself sees these mechanisms as one of its
most important tools for protecting human rights defenders126. According to the United Nations Special Rapporteur
119 “Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognised Human
Rights and Fundamental Freedoms”, Resolution 53/144 adopted by the General Assembly, 8 March 1998, UN Doc. A/RES/53/144, Article 12.
120 Ibíd. 19, para. 1.
121 Interview with the Association of Judges for Democracy, San Pedro Sula, Honduras, 10 May 2011; interview with members of the organisation Arco Iris
(Rainbow Collective), Tegucigalpa, Honduras, 5 May 2011; interview with ERIC and Radio Progreso, El Progreso, Honduras, 11 May 2011; interview
with CIPRODEH, Tegucigalpa, Honduras, 4 May 2011.
122 “ IACHR Concludes its 141st Regular Session”, IACHR, Press Release No. 28/11, 1 April 2011, http://www.cidh.oas.org/Comunicados/
English/2011/28-11eng.htm
123 “Annex to Press Release 28/11 on the 141º Period of Ordinary Sessions”, IACHR, 1 April 2011, http://www.cidh.org/Comunicados/English/2011/28A-11eng.htm
124 “Article 25: Rules of Procedure of the Inter-American Commision on Human Rights”, Approved by the Commission in the 137th period of ordinary
sessions, celebrated on 28 October to 13 November 2009.
125 “AG/RES. 2128 (XXXV-O/05): Observations and Recommendations of the Annual Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights”,
approved in the fourth plenary session of the General Assembly of the OAS, celebrated on 7 June 2005, para. 3b).
126 Ibíd. 19, para. 5.
20
The situation of human rights defenders
on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, granting
precautionary measures is an important part of regional
and international human rights protection mechanisms127.
Precautionary measures are a way to insist that States fulfil
their responsibility and obligation to protect every person
under their jurisdiction that finds themselves is a situation
of risk, including human rights defenders.
3.2.1 Applying and implementing
precautionary measures of the IACHR
Honduran organisations have stated that meeting the stipulations of the precautionary measures was already problematic before the coup d’état, but since then the implementation of these measures has become even worse and less
effective 128. The PBI mission received information about the
lack of implementation of these measures and the impact
that this gap has had on the reality of human rights defenders. Since the coup d’état, the IACHR has awarded 12
separate precautionary measures for individuals and groups
in Honduras. Additionally, it has broadened precautionary
measure No. 196/09 at least 28 times since it was originally
granted on 29 June 2009 in order to address “a series of circumstances that arose as a result of the coup d’état in Honduras” 129. It is important to note that the number of precautionary measures does not indicate the number of people
protected. The IACHR grants measures that protect more
than one person and protect collectives such as communities
or indigenous peoples 130. For example, at the end of 2009
the precautionary measure No. 196/09 extended protection
to 147 people 131. According to the IACHR, since 28 June
2009, the day of the coup, it has used the mechanisms of
granting precautionary measures and requesting information
from the State many times to protect thousands of people in
Honduras 132. Ten of the 30 organisations interviewed by the
mission confirmed that members of their organisations had
been granted precautionary measures by the IACHR 133. The
following section highlights some of the concerns expressed
by the organisations, individuals, and communities that are
currently beneficiaries of this protection mechanism.
Lack financial and human resources in order to
ensure the implementation of the measures
After its visit to Honduras in May 2010, the IACHR stated that
it “was able to establish that the efforts the State made to implement the precautionary measures have been few, late in coming,
inadequate and in some cases nonexistent”134. For the organisations and beneficiaries of these measures, there is a general perception that “there is not a strong response from the State when
there are threats against people who have precautionary measures”135. In the interviews conducted, various people stated that
there is a lack of trust because of the coup d’état, but also a fear
that those people threatening human rights defenders have connections to the State or institutions that are supposed to provide
them with protection136. These concerns have been expressed to
the IACHR, which has stated that it has received “testimony to
the effect that some beneficiaries of precautionary measures are
afraid to receive any protection from the very persons they regard as the aggressors”137.
One of the greatest obstacles, according to Honduran organisations and the IACHR, is the lack of an effective mechanism for
the implementation of these measures. The Inter-Institutional
Commission of Human Rights exists for the purpose of coordinating and supervising the implementation of precautionary
measures. This Commission is comprised of “representatives of
the Supreme Court, Public Ministry, Minister of Security, Attorney General’s Office, Special Commission for Human Rights
of the Ministry of External Relations, Minister of the Interior
and Justice, as well as a representative of the President of the
Republic”138. Observing the failure in the implementation of
the precautionary measures, the IACHR recommended in June
2010 that the Honduran State “provide the Inter-Institutional
Commission – charged with the internal coordination of these
matters – with proper staff and sufficient resources so that it
can efficiently respond to the Commission’s precautionary measures”139.
127 Ibíd. 52, para. 106
128 “La implementación de las medidas cautelares otorgadas en el contexto del Golpe de Estado en Honduras”, Presented to the IACHR by COFADEH,
CIPRODEH, ERIC, and CEJIL, October 2011.
129 “Annual Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights 2009: Chapter III the system of petitions and individual cases”, IACHR,
OEA/Ser.L/V/II Doc. 51 corr. 1, para 37.
130 Ibíd. 124.
131 Ibíd. 125, para 11; MC 96/06 – Ampliación el 24 de julio 2009 para incluir a Nahúm Palacios.
132 Ibíd. 41, para. 68.
133 The Voice of Zacate Grande, Radio Progreso, OFRANEH, CDM San Pedro Sula, COPINH, CUTH, Arco Iris, Cattrachas, CODEH, y COFADEH.
134 Ibíd. 41, para. 71.
135 Ibíd. 94.
136 Interview with journalist Felix Molina, Tegucigalpa, Honduras, 2 May 2011; interview with the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Honduras (CODEH) Tegucigalpa, Honduras, 2 May 2011; interview with CIRPODEH, Tegucigalpa, Honduras, 4 May 2011; and interview with the Association of
Judges for Democracy, San Pedro Sula, Honduras, 10 May 2011.
137 Ibíd. 41, para. 71.
138 Ibíd. 128, p. 3.
139 Ibíd. 41, para. 72.
P B I : H o n d u r a s Wo r k i n g G ro u p
21
According to declarations made by State functionaries in June
2011, the Inter-Institutional Commission had been able to arrive at agreements for 287 precautionary measures 140. However, various organisations, individuals, and communities with
whom the mission met stated that although they had come to
an agreement with the government of the implementation of
their precautionary measures, the State had not fulfilled the
agreed upon measures. In this regard, members of the organisation Arco Iris (the Rainbow Collective) stated that they had
signed an agreement with the Ministry of Security and for a
month the police conducted perimeter patrols that were documented, but since that time nothing has been done141.
The mission noted cases where police officers that were
meant to provide protection asked the human rights defenders to pay for their food and transportation costs142. There
were also organisations that gave examples in which State
authorities would no longer receive formal complaints about
violations of the precautionary measures “because they already
have too many registered complaints about precautionary measures and they couldn’t receive more143. Members of the organisation OFRANEH explained that before they the coup
they held follow-up meetings for the case of the community
Triunfo de la Cruz, but these meetings did not continue after
the coup d’e tat. For them, the fundamental problem is that
effective mechanisms to respond and implement to precautionary measures of the IACHR do not exist144.
The reality for human rights defenders
The impact of the failure of the Honduran State to implement and comply with protection measures is a reality and is
demonstrated by the number of people with precautionary
measures that have been killed, threatened, and had their
family members and people close to them attacked. For example, the journalist Nahúm Palacios and his wife were
killed on 14 March 2010, at a time when Mr. Palacios was
supposed to be under the protection of these measures 145.
Honduran organisations have documented cases where
people who have been granted precautionary measures report being followed and under surveillance, receiving direct
threats, and being attacked 146. The mission received information of family members of beneficiaries of precautionary
measures who have been attacked and threatened. Members
of the Lesbian Network Cattrachas (la Red Lésbica Cattrachas) reported that a friend of a member of the organisation was killed while that member was under the protection
of these measures. “ The police response was that the Honduran State was not responsible for this murder because it
was [the member of Cattrachas] who was under the protection of the precautionary measures and not the friend” 147.
For some people interviewed, the granting of precautionary
measures has had an unexpected and undesirable effect: it
has served as a way to identify the people who are involved
in defending human rights, but given that they are not be-
140 Ramón Custodio Espinosa, Ambassador of Honduras in Brussels, Presentation to the Subcommittee of Human Rights of the EU 11 July 2011,
http://www.europarl.europa.eu/activities/committees/homeCom.do?language=ES&body=DROI
141
142
143
144
145
146
147
22
Interview with Arco Iris (Rainbow Collective), Tegucigalpa, Honduras, 4 May 2011.
Interview with CUTH, Tegucigalpa, Honduras, 6 May 2011.
Ibíd. 73.
Ibíd. 73.
Ibíd. 41, para. 49.
Ibíd. 128, p. 10-15.
Interview with the Lesbian Network Cattrachas, Tegucigalpa, Honduras, 6 May 2011.
The situation of human rights defenders
ing implemented appropriately, this recognition has placed
these people and organisations in a situation of increased
vulnerability 148. One organisation explained that during a
hearing about the precautionary measures with IACHR,
there was the presence of soldiers dressed in civilian
clothing inside the room and at the door, monitoring who
was entering and existing the hearing 149.
3.2.2 The European Union Guidelines
on Human Rights Defenders
The European Union Guidelines on
Human Rights Defenders
The European Union (EU) Guidelines on Human Rights
Defenders were approved in 2004 and revised and complimented in 2008. Their purpose is to improve the actions of the EU in protecting human rights defenders in
other countries 150.
The Guidelines allow for “interventions by the Union
[the Heads of EU Missions and Embassies of Member
States] in favour of human rights defenders who are at
risk, and suggest practical means to support and assist
human rights defenders” 151.
The EU Guidelines have been a useful and effective tool
for protecting human rights defenders in various countries
where PBI works. Based in these experiences, the mission
wanted to verify their use in Honduras. Firstly, it is important to recognise the effort made in publishing and adopting
the local strategy of the EU for Human Rights Defenders
in Honduras in July 2010 by the EU Delegation in Honduras and German, Spanish, French, Italian, and Swedish
Embassies. The local strategy was created in consultation
with Honduran human rights organisations and included
concrete recommendations such as the creation of a Con-
tact Group in conjunction with Honduran civil society organisations in order to examine cases of threats and attacks
against human rights defenders. Also, the strategy envisages
visits from representatives of the Embassies and the EU delegation to offices of organisations and public events, such as
press conferences, of organisations that have been threatened or attacked, in addition to attending public hearings
against human rights defenders 152.
In the meetings with the Embassies of EU Member States
and the EU Delegation, they confirmed various actions that
they are taking in order to put the Guidelines into practice
apart from the creation of the local strategy 153. The representatives of the EU Delegation mentioned that they have
made in situ visits and they maintain a continuous dialogue
with human rights organisations 154. Representatives of the
German Embassy spoke of how after the kidnapping of a
member of the organisation the Association for a More Just
Society (ASJ), they decided to attend a press conference denouncing the attack and they felt that their presence had
value 155. Additionally, the Association of Judges for Democracy expressed its gratitude for the reaction of the Spanish
Embassy with regards to their case 156.
Lack of knowledge of the Guidelines
Despite these efforts, the mission also noted various points
of concern with regards to the concrete implementation
of the Guidelines. In general, there was a lack of knowledge regarding the Guidelines and local strategy amongst
many of the organisations with whom PBI met, particularly among those organisations not based in the capital
of the country 157. One organisation commented in reference
to the Embassies present in Honduras that their representatives “do not come to San Pedro Sula” 158. It is important
to state that in general the organisations based in the farthest and most rural regions of the country are those that
defend economic, social and cultural rights, and the rights
148 Ibíd. 21.
149 Ibíd 36.
150 “Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders”, Council of the European Union, Brussels, 10 June 2009 (24.06), 16332/2/08 Rev. 2, para. 1,
http://register.consilium.europa.eu/pdf/es/08/st16/st16332-re02.es08.pdf
151 Ibíd. 150, para. 1.
152 “Estrategia local de la Unión Europea para Defensores de los Derechos Humanos en Honduras”, Delegación de la Unión Europea en Honduras,
Tegucigalpa, Honduras el 27 de julio 2010, p. 17-18.
153 Interview with personel from the Spanish Agency of International Coorperation for Development (AECID), Tegucigalpa, Honduras, May 18, 2011;
interview with personel from Embassy of Germany, Tegucigalpa, Honduras, May 18, 2011; interview with personal from the EU Delegation in Honduras,
Tegucigalpa, Honduras, May 19, 2011.
154 Interview with personal from the EU Delegation in Honduras, Tegucigalpa, Honduras, May 19, 2011.
155 Interview with personel from Embassy of Germany, Tegucigalpa, Honduras, May 18, 2011.
156 Ibíd 20.
157 Red Comal, OFRANEH, SINTRAIN Tocoa, and the Association of Judges for Democracy expressed a total lack of knowledge of the Guidelines.
158 Ibíd. 7.
P B I : H o n d u r a s Wo r k i n g G ro u p
23
of indigenous peoples and garifuna communities. Precisely
because of the nature of their work, and their geographic
isolation, these organisations find themselves in a situation
of increased risk.
Inappropriate application of the Guidelines
The PBI mission received information about a technical mission that was sent by the EU Delegation to the Bajo Aguán
region. In practice, such a mission to the more conflictive regions of the country falls within the recommended measures
of the Guidelines, highlighted in the recommendations of
the local strategy, and could be ideal moments in which the
Embassies and the delegation demonstrate their respect for
the work of human rights defenders, resulting in their increase protection and safety. However, it is concerning that,
according to Honduran organisations, there has not been
any public follow-up to this delegation 159.
159 Ibíd. 21.
24
The situation of human rights defenders
P B I : H o n d u r a s Wo r k i n g G ro u p
25
This publication was financed by:
Sigrid Rausing Trust
Photos: James Rodríguez - www.mimundo.org / graphic design: gerardomonterroso.blogspot.com
October 2011

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